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Give Close the Oscar!
Rockwell_Cronenberg23 November 2011
At first glance, Albert Nobbs could seem to be another dry and stuffy period piece that would follow in the tradition and be mostly about the acting. However once you delve into it, the film ends up being a surprisingly dense character drama focused around one troubled, courageous woman whose loneliness gets the better of her years of living in secrecy. The titular waiter is a delicate, frail woman masquerading as a man and actress Glenn Close delves into the role with such complete detail that she truly does disappear.

I'm always skeptical of performances that are claimed to be "fully unrecognizable" and at first I must admit that it just felt like Close playing a man, but as the film continued I slowly lost sight of my cynicism and when a later scene portrays Nobbs wearing a dress for the first time I was blown away at the fact that I was seeing this woman be a real woman for the first time. I was amazed at how absorbed Close was in the role, I genuinely forgot all about this woman playing a character and just believed the character's facade, as well as Close's. Close has gotten attention for the role as a potential Oscar vehicle and some have lashed back against that due to the performance being quite restrained, but I admire her delicacy in taking on the role. This is a woman who spent her entire life trying to blend in and be unseen, and Close's ability to be this fly on the wall creature is remarkable.

I was glad that there weren't any hysterics on her part and when the few scenes came where, in isolation, she broke down I was devastated by this woman fearing for her life to unravel. It's such a delicate and entirely human performance, and as far as I'm concerned one of the best of Close's very strong career. The central narrative revolves around Nobbs' desire to woo a young maid named Helen (played with an Irish tilt by the up-and-coming Australian Mia Wasikowska, again shining) to leave their life of servitude and open up a tobacco shop together. Throughout the film I was bothered by this belief that Nobbs was supposed to be in love with Helen and that's why she wanted to open the shop with her, but as the film reached it's final conclusion I came to the realization that it had nothing to do with love.

Throughout her life Nobbs had put in all of her effort to having no one notice her that when she's introduced to a similar woman masquerading as a man (played by the strong and unbelievably convincing Janet McTeer) who has a happy life married to a woman, Nobbs realizes the potential that maybe she doesn't have to live her life alone. It's not about loving Helen at all, it's just about not wanting to be alone anymore and once that became apparent to me the film became quite devastating. Nobbs trapped herself in this prison and Close plays it with such restrained heartache that it truly hit a level with me. Even in writing this I am realizing that the film had a much stronger impact on me than I had previously thought. This is a devastating story of a woman trapped in circumstances of her own making, portrayed with such genuine believability by Close that I forgot I was watching an actress pretend to be a man but instead just saw Nobbs.

There's a line where McTeer's character asks Nobbs what her name is and she responds, "Albert". Then McTeer repeats the question, clearly asking for her birthname instead of the one she is hiding behind and Nobbs again responds, "Albert". At the time I rolled my eyes at the exchange, but now that the whole film has settled with me it speaks so much to this trapped, wounded soul who was so lost in herself that she couldn't escape her own prison, let alone the one that she had built for Nobbs. I found Albert Nobbs to be quite the moving, hushed character piece led by a wrenching performance by Close and backed up by several other strong performances from McTeer, Wasikowska and a grimy Aaron Johnson.
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Janet McTeer is ... transcendent
JulieKelleher5725 November 2011
Janet McTeer is absolutely transcendent in ALBERT NOBBS.

The waves of emotion which she wraps into Hubert Page are a wonder to behold. Her performance is not one of those 'knock me over with a feather' performances; it's more like a performance that settles in the bottom of your heart and stays there well after the movie ends. It keeps you up at night, and tugs at you for days afterward.

The story itself is more layered than it appears to be. Glenn Close has brought to the screen a very private yet very emotional character. Such a character is difficult to portray -- and the 'talking to one's self scenes' were a bit annoying, as all such scenes are.

In the end, however, this is a movie well worth your time.
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Tortured soul
moviemanMA15 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Albert Nobbs is a labor of love. Glenn Close, who stars in the titular role, has been connected with this material for nearly 20 years, playing the same role on stage in 1982. For years she tried to get the production to the big screen, and after a long wait her efforts have put forth a brilliant film. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment), this film tells the story of Albert, an Irish waiter at a hotel. The trouble is she has been portraying herself as a man for 30 years. She has become encased in her mindset of Albert Nobbs that she doesn't know her true self anymore. She must do whatever it takes to get by, even if it means keeping her secret to the grave.

She befriends a local painter, Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), only Hubert isn't all that he says he is either. With Hubert's friendship, Albert sees that what he needs is a wife. He attempts to court another maid at the hotel, Helen (by Mia Wasikowska), only she has taken a shine to Joe (Aaron Johnson), the new handyman. It's sometimes painful to see the lengths that Albert goes to for Helen, but Albert it so pure in his thinking and kind of heart that we want him to get the girl no matter what.

What makes Albert Nobbs so special is Close's performance. Close truly fits the part. There is something in her eyes that makes you really believe that the woman in Albert is only what he keeps hidden under his clothes. All the rest is a man. Close makes us believe that Albert sees himself as a man only just a little different. We see a fragile man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if it means sucking up to the harsh and vulgar members of high society.

The supporting cast around Close is fantastic as well. McTeer really shines as Albert's only true friend. I would look for both Close and McTeer to be in contention come this Oscar night. Wasikowska and Johnson look great for their respective parts, playing them with honesty. Another accent to the cast is Brendan Gleeson as the local doctor. He adds a touch of sensibility to the entitled of the day. He likes a good, stiff drink (or three) and finds himself comfortable in the company of those considered lower than him.

Gleeson's character brings up a great quality to the film. I am astonished at how much of a commentary of 19th century life is put into the film. I would say most of the first act is setting up the world they live in and periodic references and characters enter the second and third acts to remind us of the time period this story is taking place. Albert Nobbs is in fact a reflection of what it was like to live back then. In order to make a decent living one had to be a man, otherwise find someone to live off of.

It's a heartbreaking story that will really hit home. Albert on the surface is a simple man, but underneath lies a wealth of feeling, confusion, and love. The film ends with the beautiful song "Lay Your Head Down" with lyrics by Close herself, music by Brian Byrne, and sung by Sinead O'Connor. It reminded me of "Into the West" by Annie Lennox, the Oscar winning song from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This song from Albert is somber, sweet, and plays like a lullaby. I think it's safe to say that is exactly what it is; a lullaby for Albert, a character whose life has been so strenuous and tiresome.

The more I think about it the more I love this film. Great performances, great characters, and a perfect time period to be placed in. The song is the icing on the cake (and probably has the best shot at winning come Oscar night). It looks like Meryl Streep is all but a lock for Best Actress, but we shall see what happens. Who knows, maybe Albert will gain momentum coming down the homestretch. I hope it does.
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Beautiful film
jqapac7 October 2011
I saw this film at the Mill Valley Film Festival Opening last night and I thought it was an amazing piece. Luckily I didn't have an preconceived notions about the film. I hadn't heard anything about it which for me is always the best way to go into a film. I always set high standards for any film that Glen Close is a part of and she definitely met that expectation and then some.

Visually, Albert Nobbs had a fairy tale feel to it. I would say it was an atypical film without political agenda. A simple but highly intelligent story full of life and character detail. I would like to see this again. I have a feeling that in a second screening I would see so many new things that are so subtle in the first viewing.

Glen Close transformed completely. It was dazzling to watch. I was captivated by her face and her mannerisms. I would highly recommend this film to friends. A must see!
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A Towering Close
billcr1217 February 2012
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times(apologies to Dickens) in this Irish drama of the affluent and the working class at the turn of he century. Glenn Close is a towering figure throughout as Albert Nobbs, a butler at an upscale hotel in Dublin. Close and Mia Wasikowska are both magnificent in this saga of gender identity. Nobbs is dressed as a man in order to work and survive in a world better suited to being a male and she is searching for who and what she should be. Her dream of opening a shop with a woman she has fallen in love with, well played by Wasikowska is deeply affecting.

Janet McTeer and Brendan Gleeson round out a perfect ensemble cast as they are two of the best actors working today. Gleeson brings some comic relief as the resident doctor and McTeer gives a sympathetic ear and emotional support to Close.

Sinead O'Connor sings the final song as the credits roll. The story is a sad one but due to the great cast it is a movie worth watching.
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Fascinating lead performances outshine a not as compelling story
chaz-2831 January 2012
When men dress up as women in the movies, it is almost always in a comedy or farce; think Some Like It Hot (1959), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and Tootsie (1982). However, when the situation is reversed and the film concerns women dressing up as men, the movie is habitually a drama bordering on tragedy: Yentl (1983), Boys Don't Cry (1999), and Osama (2003). Perhaps men trying to pass themselves off as women are just funnier and more outlandish, but the reasons behind it are usually not as urgent. In Albert Nobbs, Albert (Glenn Close) is the head waiter at an upscale hotel in 19th century Ireland. He appears to be middle-aged and has been passing himself off as a man since he/she was 14. His livelihood and future in the midst of immense unemployment and desperate surroundings depend on maintaining this deception.

I use the pronouns 'he' and 'his' because nothing about Albert is female except for the some well hidden physiology. Albert is extremely adept at passing as a man. When he speaks at all, his voice is low. His hair is short, he is impeccably dressed, his manners are irreproachable, and he does nothing whatsoever to call any attention to himself. As any man-servant should be, he is invisible. Working in the hospitality industry is just a means to end for Albert though. He lives such a spartan lifestyle because he hoards his money underneath his floorboard to one day soon purchase a shop and become a respected tobacconist. He is close; he has identified the vacant shop, has planned its layout, and can almost feel the escape which will come when he is his own boss.

Albert knows something is missing in his grand scheme though; he is lonely. In the beginning, he does not recognize he is missing anything important until he is forced to share his room one night with a man, Mr. Hubert Page (Janet McTeer). Through a contrived sequence, Albert is revealed as a female to Mr. Page and only later on learns Mr. Page is also a woman. Using what look like camera tricks and perspective shots, Mr. Page is a towering and bulky workman. He is also married to a woman. This bit of news tremendously confuses poor Albert. How is it possible for two women to be married to one another? It is obvious that Mr. Page and his wife are in a lesbian relationship; however, Albert would not even know what that word means. Albert comes across as asexual. There has never been a chance in his life to conceive of intimacy so all feelings and aspects of that persona just atrophied away.

Now that Albert's eyes are opened to the fact that there are women out in the world who are married to each other, he sets his eyes on the lowly but young and desirable chambermaid Helen (Mia Wasikowska). Helen knows just how pretty she is and becomes smitten by the newly employed handyman Joe (Aaron Johnson). Not only is Albert stunted in the intimacy realm of life, but his social skills are also not as fine tuned as the younger set who now aware of Albert's infatuation with Helen, may try to use those feelings for their financial gain.

While the story of Albert Nobbs is on the weaker side and not particularly engaging, the acting, specifically by Close and McTeer, is fascinating. There is a scene where Albert and Mr. Page try on some dresses and take a walk outside. For Albert, this is the first time he has worn a dress in probably 30 years. The immediate discomfort but growing acceptance and then utter joy on his face is a wonderful scene as he experiences some long repressed feelings while ecstatically running on the beach. McTeer's performance is equal to Close's in every way. She/he looks 100% like a man dressed up as a woman when he puts on that dress. The makeup department for this film is spot on, much better than J. Edgar and The Iron Lady. Even though they did not have to age the characters as those aforementioned films did, transforming two women into men so effectively as they do is worth the price of admission alone.

Director Rodrigo Garcia, who happens to be the son of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is becoming known as the go-to filmmaker for involved and complex stories about women. He also directed Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000), Nine Lives (2005), and Mother and Child (2010), all recognized as thoughtful films with strong female leads. Glenn Close co-wrote the screenplay and brought with her a long experience of understanding Albert since she played him in the 1982 stage production.

I recommend Albert Nobbs to enjoy the performances and to witness the forceful presences of Glenn Close and Janet McTeer and their convincing portrayals of the opposite sex. The story is not as compelling as one would wish for a period piece such as this, but it is nevertheless overshadowed by the acting.
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A different Glenn Close at her best....
aeljs8 December 2011
Glenn Close's portrayal of the title character was excellent! She was at her best in this picture. Perhaps the reason why other people who saw the movie felt that the movie is draggy and her portrayal is so-so was because there wasn't any hysteria in it. There wasn't any grandstanding scene. There wasn't a shouting match. No loud confrontations. No slapping and hair-pulling scenes. It's a quiet movie so unlike of Close's other known portrayals.

But one can't simply ignore the greatness she has shown in her eyes. You can feel the sadness, the pain, the fears and the hope in her eyes. It was a quiet, restrained performance that is quite haunting that stays in your mind even after watching it. And that's what happened to me. Hours after watching it, the scenes and her story still lingers in my mind.

Everyone in the movie gave worthy performances.... Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Pauline Collins, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Myers (even though he was in 3-4 scenes only) and most especially, Janet McTeer.

McTeer's characterization was superb. Her body built helped a lot in her portrayal of Hubert Page. But i don't believe that she upstaged Close's here. Her character was quite different from the character that Glenn Close was portraying. And both did quite well in giving justice to the roles they played in the movie.

The beach scene was excellent... quiet, yet conveys so much feelings...

How i wish that those who've seen the movie and saw it differently will watch it again and see the story from Albert Nobbs' point of view. See the expressions in 'his' eyes and feel the tragedy of the life 'he' has gone through.

Glenn Close really deserves to win the Oscar's Best Actress plum with this movie.
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Phenomenal performances by Glenn Close and Janet McTeer
Ramascreen21 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
When an actor transforms, he or she only lets you see the characters they play and Glenn Close's transformation in ALBERT NOBBS is acting in is purest form. Janet McTeer gives an equally incredible performance! Close is a 5 time Oscar nominee and it's high time she gets her long overdue appreciation. With a narrative that centers on unrequited love, identity and heartache, ALBERT NOBBS is the most powerful, emotional drama about longing for acceptance and freedom of expression since Brokeback Mountain… When I first saw the trailer/preview a few months back, two things came to mind, the first one was that it had that Gosford Park vibe to it and the second impression was that I couldn't believe that that was Glenn Close who I was I watching. Close is an actress who not only surrenders completely to her roles but she also has such strong convictions in them, you can't help but be amazed at every speech and every gesture she makes. This transgender performance without a doubt is her best work yet. Her co-star, Janet McTeer, also a fellow Oscar nominee, doesn't have a problem keeping up with Close. McTeer meets the challenge, stares it right in the eye, and steals the scenes any chance she gets. The story is heartbreaking and yet irresistible and wonderful, very well-written and well-directed. It's like an enchanting tale that grounded, a period piece with a relevant and timeless issue, and it speaks about society. All of the characters in this film contribute to Albert Nobbs' story arc. I think you'll find Mia Wasikowska's and Aaron Johnson's characters very interesting because their type of relationship is no stranger to all of us. Mia plays a maid who's needy and insecure, and then comes along Johnson's character who sweeps her off her feet, only to eventually use her to his advantage. At times the film moves gently and other times there's a tug of war going on that heightens the conflict. Albert Nobbs is both a tragic and inspiring character, she's spent so many years being what she's not, she doesn't know how to be who she is anymore. She has a dream but she can't find anyone who'd share that dream with her, even Mr. Page (McTeer), the one person who accepts her, the person whose life Nobbs desperately wants to live up to, wouldn't take the chance, and so that forces her to go back to chasing a fool of a woman who's head over heels for a drunkard. It's a story that offers rude awakening as a way to get everyone around Nobbs to finally learn their lesson, for us the audience to be a bit more sympathetic.
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Haunting, bittersweet gender swap period piece proves illuminating
Turfseer20 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Having seen director Rodrigo Garcia's excellent 'Woman and Child' at last year's Spirit Award screenings, I was surprised to see him tackling a period piece, 'Albert Nobbs', which is based on a 1927 novella by the Irish novelist, George Moore, and later turned into a stage production in 1982, starring Glenn Close, who now again tackles the title role, this time playing the part decidedly as a middle-aged character. Garcia is one of today's leading directors as he has a reputation for being sensitive to the needs of women and extremely competent in directing them.

'Albert Nobbs' is set in the late nineteenth century in Dublin and focuses on Glenn Close as Albert, a woman who works as a servant at the Morrison Hotel and who's been pretending to be a man since the age of 14. When Mrs. Baker, the pretentious proprietress of the hotel (brilliantly played by Pauline Collins, known for her role in the famed TV series, 'Upstairs, Downstairs'), orders Albert to put up house painter Hubert Page (played by a fantastic Janet McTeer), for the night in her room, Albert can no longer hide her disguise when she's compelled to strip off her corset due to an infestation of fleas inside her clothes. It looks like Page is going to end up blackmailing Albert but in a great plot twist, she reveals that she's a woman too, by revealing her pendulous breasts.

Albert, who is extremely reserved, is shocked at Page's revelation but nonetheless is impressed how Page conducts herself as a man. While Albert is deathly afraid of being found out, Page is self-assured and cocky. She even is legally married to a woman and they have a loving relationship (Albert seeks to learn if they're on intimate terms, but Page refuses to tell).

Albert dreams of opening up a tobacco shop and has been hoarding her money underneath a floorboard in her room. With Hubert as a model, Albert becomes a infatuated with Helen, a very pretty, young servant girl. While Mia Wasikowska practically sleep-walked through her recent role as 'Jane Eyre', here director Garcia turns her into a powerhouse of vacillating feelings and emotions. Soon, Mrs. Baker hires the young 'bad boy' boiler repairman, Joe, and Helen falls for him hook, line and sinker.

There are actually two antagonists in 'Albert Nobbs'. First is the Victorian society itself, that forces women such as Albert and Hubert to deny their true selves, in order to survive. It was all about economics, as women were paid very little or weren't allowed to work at all. Often, they were brutalized by alcoholic husbands and some (or should I say, a few) chose to run away and hide their identities, acting as men. The epitome of those men who put women in such a position, is the ne'er-do-well, Joe, who can't control his anger and refuses to accept the idea that he has a responsibility to act as a caring father.

While 'Nobbs' is often sad, director Garcia wisely inserts some humorous scenes to balance the tragedy. There's a great scene where Albert and Hubert take a stroll on the beach, dressed as women. Ever so briefly, Albert actually gets to experience feelings of joy, as she runs down the shore for the first in women's clothes. They seem to revel in their awkwardness but Albert soon trips and falls. The joy is short-lived and we immediately cut back to the hotel, where Albert must re-assume his role as the stiff-necked servant.

Tragedy is unavoidable when a typhoid epidemic claims the life of Hubert's wife, Kathleen. And Joe, in his anger, knocks Albert against a wall, after the two tussle for Helen's affection. The blow against the wall is the coup de grace, as Albert does not survive.

Garcia also depicts the brutal class differences in the late nineteenth century. The guests at the hotel are for the most part quite arrogant and treat the servants as inferiors. Not everybody back then was unkind though. Dr. Holloran orders Mrs. Baker not to throw Helen out on the streets after she becomes pregnant.

'Albert Nobbs' ends on a bittersweet note. Dr. Holloran bemoans Albert's fate when he discovers that she's a woman on her deathbed. But Hubert plays the role of the redeeming angel. He learns from Helen that soon child welfare officials will come for the baby and Mrs. Baker will indeed throw her out on the streets. But Hubert assures her that it won't happen—that soon she will take Helen as a wife and protect her and the baby from any harm.

There has been some criticism that the Albert character is underdeveloped and needs more of a back story. One critic writes: "Nobbs is so emotionally stunted by the very act of living as to almost cease to exist." There may be some truth in that opinion but by the same token, we do learn about Albert's childhood and how she came to adopt her role as a man. You can probably appreciate Albert's character more if you place it in contrast to Hubert. They should be looked as a team, reminiscent of 'Laurel and Hardy', sans the comedy. Albert's demeanor is both dour and precise; he's a bit of a Chaplinesque character, and although her pursuit of Helen is naïve, it's quite heartfelt. Hubert is always comfortable in her own skin, and is much more confident than Albert. In a sense, Albert lives on in Hubert, who must be seen as a great 'protector' of all women.

'Albert Nobbs' is a very impressive film with a top-notch cast. Close and McTeer work wonders in difficult roles and are supported by equally impressive supporting players. The cinematography evokes the bygone era of turn-of-the-century Dublin with director Garcia most ably conveying what it was like living in such a repressed atmosphere. Maybe that's why James Joyce eventually left Dublin and never came back.
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Had potential but ultimately mediocre
grantss16 February 2016
So-so. Was initially engaging, as you empathise with Albert Nobbs and some of the other characters too. However, the plot struggles to find direction, drifts from a point and ends as a bit of damp squib. The movie had the potential to make a very profound point about women's rights and self-determination, but in the end skirts all these and has a decidedly lacklustre end.

Glenn Close does her best to get an Oscar, and got a nomination for it, but I found her performance too stuffy and uptight. Janet McTeer, on the other hand, gives a superb performance and well deserved her Best Supporting Actress nomination. Good support too from Mia Wasikowska and most of the other supporting cast.
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women's relationships
lee_eisenberg29 January 2012
The three movies that I've seen that Rodrigo García (son of Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez) directed deal with women's relationships: "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her", "Mother and Child" and now "Albert Nobbs". In the latter, Glenn Close plays a woman posing as a man in 19th century Dublin and working as a butler in a posh hotel. When the hotel owner hires a painter named Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), Albert soon finds out Hubert's secret. From there, relationships with other staff members proliferate.

The movie brings up several issues. Aside from Ireland's status as a British colony in the 19th century, there's the social hierarchy in the hotel, and the forbidden relationships. Albert's posing as a man is partially because of some haunting experiences, but also because women didn't have as many opportunities open to them back then. As a result of his hiding in this male persona, Albert has been hiding from himself, one might say.

All in all, I thought that this is a very well done movie. Close looks eerily gaunt in the role, easily passing as a man, while Mia Wasikowska, playing a maid, has the perfection balance of strength and fragility. I recommend the movie. Also starring Aaron Johnson (John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy"), Pauline Collins, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Maria Doyle Kennedy.
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Masterful Performances All Around
chicagopoetry30 December 2011
Technically, the film Albert Nobbs won't be released in the United States until late January, and I would think that would disqualify it as a contender for the upcoming Oscars (although the buzz around says otherwise, so I don't know how that works) but it would be a real shame if true because Glenn Close is strictly at her best since Dangerous Liaisons as Albert Nobbs, a male waiter living a secret life. Janet McTeer is a bit more hammy as Hubert Page, another woman living life as a man, and she's not as convincing as Close is as a man, but she still has her moments, like the way she walks all manly on the beach even when wearing a dress. Mia Wasikowska also gives a supporting actress nomination worthy role as sort of what Cécile was to Liaisons. I really hated the ending of this film and would have preferred something a little less Remains of the Day and a little more uplifting and hopeful, so as a film I don't think it is best picture material but Glenn Close certainly deserves her long overdue Oscar for this stunning performance.

I do have to wonder how this got an R rating though. There is nothing R rated in it whatsoever; the only nudity involves two very quick flashes of breasts only to establish that the characters are actually female, and other than that, there is no foul language or violence or anything. The MPPA should reconsider what I believe to be a biased rating that it came up with based only on the fact that the film hints at lesbianism.
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Compelling film - Glenn Close and Janet McTeer are marvelous
barryjaylevine25 March 2012
Wow! The producers really took a risk making this film. I can see how many people would object to its treatment of the subject matter (or the subject matter itself). The acting was first-rate and there were surprises throughout the movie. Each time I thought I could predict where it was going, the movie took a sharp turn in an unexpected direction.

The cinematography was beautiful as were the costumes and sets. Can't really say anything bad about this production.

What can you say about Glenn Close? She continues to stretch herself in unanticipated ways. Janet McTeer's performance is brilliant and nuanced; I could not take my eyes off her.

I'm still thinking about the film today. Powerful filmmaking.
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Worthy and well made, but about Hubert Page, not Albert Nobbs
joachimokeefe5 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This review gives away the ending, which partly illustrates the movie's problem.

Glenn Close plays a woman who has lived for thirty years as a man, the head steward at an upmarket Dublin hotel at the turn of the century when you could lose your (pathetic) job for having a stain on your tie. In that climate, having to disguise your gender is the least of your worries.

Albert Nobbs was abandoned as a child, then later gang-raped. This seems to support the characterisation of Albert as a severely introverted individual, terrified or unable to express any sort of feeling as she salts away her tip money under the floorboards in her room at the top of the stairs. Albert's dream is to buy a small shop, and as her target of £600 slowly gets nearer, she begins to fantasise about having a partner to share her new life with.

There are two candidates: Helen (Mia Wasikowska), the cute but flighty parlourmaid, and Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), a jobbing painter who reveals herself (thanks Janet!) to Albert as a fellow(?) transvestite. Hubert, however, is comfortable in her sexuality and has a partner Mary (Maria Doyle Kennedy, an excellent portrayal). Hubert and Mary's life is exactly what Albert wants: a small cottage business, and a mantlepiece with a pretty clock on it.

The Upstairs/Downstairs/Downton Abbey staging of the story is great; and you also begin by feeling a little admiration for Albert, who manages to both completely repress her misery and be extremely good at her job. Where her life - and the film - starts to unravel is when Albert is forced by the hotel proprietor (Pauline Collins giving it the full TV soap star treatment) to share her bed with Hubert when he/she has to stop overnight. When Hubert sees that Albert has breasts, Albert goes to pieces, begging Hubert not to give her away; and this doesn't ring true because the jump from severely repressed to gibbering wreck is simply instantaneous. Thirty years of self-control broken down by a flea in your corset? For whatever reason the feeling of a terrible secret about to be uncovered is not there - maybe it's because we already know Glenn Close isn't a man. There's not enough buildup, or maybe it's because Albert's grovelsome job is so boring we feel she'd be better off - or more interesting - out of it.

In a subplot which mistakenly becomes the main plot, Helen the maid gets pregnant by Joe (Aaron Johnson), the dishy 'young man about the hotel' who finesses his way into the job by luckily sorting out the plumbing. As he turns out to be a boozing rotter, he persuades Helen to 'walk out' with Albert in the hopes of getting expensive treats before he and Helen leave for America.

But by this time in the movie, Albert has completely stopped being interesting. What does the character want? Not to be lonely? This isn't shown well enough: Albert continues to go about her job as normal, and the story digresses into vignettes of all the other characters whose stories are actually a lot easier to empathise with.

When Hubert's partner Mary dies in a typhoid outbreak, Albert misguidedly proposes to move in with Hubert and live the dream. This shows that Albert has no understanding of a loving relationship, only a longing for one. Hubert is kind and sympathetic, and she and Albert wear a couple of Mary's handmade dresses to the beach for the day, but a relationship is out of the question, throwing Albert back on the two-timing Helen.

•••••••••••• SPOILER •••••••••••••

Fast-forward to the ending. Albert attempts to remonstrate with Joe when he starts beating Helen. He pushes her away, and when she then jumps on his back Albert is thrown hard against a wall, obviously concussed. Albert conveniently fails to lock her bedroom door, goes to bed and.... dies. Pauline Collins, going through Albert's meagre belongings, finds her account book in a scene worthy of a a bad pantomime. To wrap up - she uses the money to pay Hubert to redecorate the hotel, and in the last scene Hubert looks like she's going to take Helen and her baby under her wing. The question of when she tells Helen she's not a man is the same one that kept nagging at Albert when he first met the lesbian couple.

And that's the problem with the movie: it's an axiom of (mainstream) storywriting that the story is about the character who makes the greatest sacrifice. Hubert loses the partner who 'was her world', redeems the cute, misguided character, and unknowingly benefits from Albert's death. Albert doesn't sacrifice anything or redeem anyone, she just fails, fails again, and dies in a sad way. For Albert we feel sympathy, but for Hubert we feel much, much more. Albert is a supporting character in Hubert's movie, and for most of the movie Hubert is absent. It's as though 'Casablanca' had been called 'Sam the Pianist'.

The film is very good to look at and Close is very convincing, accent drift notwithstanding, but the screenplay falls into an elephant trap.
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theshutterexperiment7 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
First, I watched this on Netflix and their description was not accurate: "A woman disguised as a man and working in a posh 19th century hotel reconsiders her charade when a handsome painter arrives on the scene." So I'm thinking funny love story with some tense drama and a happy ending. I did not laugh, smile, frown or feel any emotion at all while watching this. I cry over roadkill so if a movie can't evoke an emotional response from me, even when a sympathetic main character dies, there is a problem. This movie was as flat as Glenn Close's over injected face.

I kept waiting for this movie to make some kind of sense. When Albert was telling Hubert her story, I figured it out. This film is not for entertainment, it is a sermon. As a movie watcher and societal participant, I am sick to death of being nudged into this "men are responsible for all of the evils in the world" view, which over the past half century, seems to have infiltrated our society.

Almost every single male character in this production (even those not on screen) is a physically abusive, alcoholic womanizer. Was there not one man on Earth in the 19th century that wasn't a substance abusing, psychotic rapist? Even the good doctor couldn't keep his face out of the bottle and his hands off the poor maid. Hollywood, if you're listening, I think we've covered this. Let's move on please unless of course your goal is to create a whole generation of self loathing men who feel guilty about being alive.

Perhaps I could have tolerated the obvious man hating if the story made sense and didn't leave me worrying about the welfare of Mia Wasikowska's character. Creepy isn't a creepy enough word to describe the ending.

Here's a more accurate description. If anyone working at Netflix is reading this, feel free to use it. "An abused woman disguised as a man working in a posh 19th century hotel meets another abused woman disguised as a man who is married to a woman, decides to get married herself by deceiving another abused but much younger pregnant woman into marriage in order to staff a fictional tobacco shop."
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Oh, No! Another Teaching Moment!
marsanobill27 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Lovely sets and costumes and yes, Glenn Close is very good at appearing to be nearly lifeless, although to me it's more of an annoyance than a performance. And yes, the abuses and humiliations visited upon Victorian servants are made clear ('Downton Abbey'is heaven by comparison). But face it: this is one of those movies whose scriptwriters want to teach us about suffering and ennoble us by causing us to care. One way you can tell is by anachronistic scriptwriting, as when Nobbs's painter friend, who turns out to be a lesbian disguised as a man, says "You don't have to be anything but what you are." Oh, please. That is utterly out of time. There are other problems. Nobbs wants to marry but is somehow totally unaware of the fact that an overwhelming majority of people want there to be two sexes involved in their marriages. Nobbs is at least 30; has she not eyes to see and ears to hear? Not noticed that ALL of the couples dining, staying and fooling around at the hotel are two-sex couples? That the painter and her wife are the only lesbian couple she's ever run into? He twice spends time pondering the weighty but ludicrous question "Do I tell her (that I'm a woman) before the wedding or after?" And even though he seems to realize that that could be something of a surprise if not shock to the intended bride, and although aware that her painter pal could help out here, she manages (aided by the script's heavy hand) not to ask, despite numerous opportunities. How does Albert decided to marry, anyway? It seems to be mainly because someone told him to, and even fingered a convenient bride. It's not even clear that Nobbs knows the difference between a lesbian relationship and what used to be called a 'Boston marriage,' which involved 2 women living as friends, not lovers. Nor is it clear that Albert wants one or the other. My favorite scene comes when the painter, following up on his 'be who you are' baloney, clads himself and Albert in his wife's dresses (she has a little too-conveniently died, just out of the blue) and the two of the go for a walk on the beach. And lo and behold, it is a LIBERATING moment for Albert:he's wearing a dress! He's BEING WHO HE REALLY IS!! Albert goes running full-tilt down the deserted beach down, looking for all the world as if he's going to take off in a Johnathan Livingston Seagull moment or yell "I'm free! I'm free!"Laugh? I though I'd die. In short, this is a tedious collection of pious thought for right-thinking people, and a complete waste of time.
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Strangely haunting and McTeer is mesmerising
jegpad24 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
When I first saw McTeer I was captivated by an Oscar worthy performance. The nuances in her expressions spoke a thousand words and I found myself eager for her to break cover in her secret battle against the iniquities of master and servant.

Close is a little too closeted for the viewer to empathise completely. Her naivety is frustrating compared to McTeer's emancipated demeanour.

The premise of the film is engaging and creates a suspense which held my attention throughout, although I was too optimistic in my expectation for a comeuppance denouement. Rather the viewer is satisfied that the secret battle for female emancipation continues despite the tragedies along the way.

Beautifully filmed with glorious attention to detail, Albert Nobbs is a story that comes back to haunt you.
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What's to be done about gender?
stensson24 March 2012
Of all the great American actor performances we've seen lately, what Glenn Close does here takes the prize. She is Albert Nobbs, the waiter at a Dublin hotel during the 1890s, who has been disguised as a woman for decades after a group rape. Nobbs is not only disguised; it's about getting a real male character. It's about not standing sexuality and the Victorian hotel waiter environment is perfect for this.

But Nobbs meets this painter who keeps the same kind of secret and it all turns in different ways. You could perhaps say that gender borders are crossed in unexpected ways.

This is the kind of film you think about for days after watching and new things come to your attention. Well worth seeing.
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S/he won't go away.
jdesando23 January 2012
"You don't have to be anything but what you are." Hupert Page (Janet McTeer)

Albert Nobbs is a curious story, perhaps not like anything else you've seen. If you wait until the end, you may love hearing Sinead O'Connor sing "Lay Down Your Head." But in between beginning and end is a performance by Glenn Close as a gender-bending butler in 1890's Dublin to confound critics who use Meryl Streep as their litmus test.

Where Streep infuses her characters with at least a few eccentric affectations, Close's Albert is a fascinating cipher of a woman playing a man so tied up like her corset that she rarely changes expression; her immobile face resembles a plastic-surgery job wound like her too tight, afraid to laugh or cry for fear of pulling her skin down from its moorings behind the ear. The stoicism is, however, not without its oddball charm, as you are unlikely to meet such an introvert, who is rivaled only by Melville's classic Bartleby.

Albert decides to woo young Helen (Mia Wasikowska) to marry him and settle into a tobacco shop, even though he has not told her he is a woman. Albert is helped by another disguised female, Hubert, played Oscar-worthy by Janet McTeer. Although Close, a producer and co-writer, doesn't reveal much about Albert's background and the reason for remaining in disguise other than the difficulty of single women surviving in late nineteenth-century Dublin, McTeer's Hubert satisfies us with background information and a current marriage inspiring Albert to pursue Helen.

The short story and the 1982 play, for which Close as Albert won an Obie, might be warmer and more accessible. Although the film has much of John Huston's The Dead in its set design, Huston's and James Joyce's character development and disclosure are leagues ahead of this minimalist script and sets.

As annoying as Albert is in his privacy, Close's Chaplinesque costuming and minimalist performance won't go away. Watch out, Meryl.
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weird, slow, boring, and depressing
netrodiny30 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Destined to be a lesbian cult classic. Glenn Close plays a woman who cross-dresses as a man, "Albert Nobbs," in order to get a good job at a hotel and survive in 19th Century Ireland. While at the hotel, she meets an equally lesbionic woman dressing as a man (who does handiwork at the hotel) and looks into starting a romance with him/her/it, discovering that he/she is already married to a woman. Albert Nobbs then decides she/he also wants to marry a woman and tries to star a romance with a young female hotel maid (Mia Wasikowska). Even with all this, nothing really happens in this movie and you wonder why you wasted your time. This movie wasn't just weird, slow, boring, and depressing; it was annoying and creepy, too. Yuck.
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McTeer sizzles while Close fizzles in this lavishly boring period piece
DonFishies28 September 2011
Going into Albert Nobbs at the Toronto International Film Festival, I think my anticipation for Glenn Close's performance was high. There was a lot of early Oscar buzz going for the film, and it was the key reason I ventured into the packed final screening of the film. And now, almost two weeks later, I still feel a lot of regret for giving into the hype.

Albert Nobbs (Close) leads a simple life as a butler at a fancy hotel in turn of the century Dublin. But he is hiding a secret: he is actually a she, staying low-key while she raises enough money to start a tobacco shop. With the appearance of Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), a painter who hides a similar secret, Nobbs realizes she needs to come out of her shell a bit more and start planning her future.

I desperately wanted to adore Albert Nobbs, but after the initial play-like introduction to all of the main players (in one scene no less), I found myself horrifically bored from start to finish. Remember the stuffy British period pieces you loathe the very existence of, and were hoping were completely extinct? I am sorry to report they are alive and well. The film moves at a snail's pace, going through Nobb's attempt at prepping to move on and stop hiding. It goes through a few incredibly odd subplots, one namely involving a pretty house maid named Helen (Mia Wasikowska), but feels badly cobbled together. It is based on a critically acclaimed play that Close had previously starred in and feels like it is stuck within the confines of that pace and structure. I realize they wanted to stay true to the original source material, but I am confident in saying that we have seen enough films based on musicals and plays to know that it is not hard to think outside the box and make something a bit different and more inclined to the medium.

For all the early Oscar talk, it disappoints me to say that Close's performance is good but nothing truly extraordinary. She is incredibly convincing as the titular character, looking nearly unrecognizable for a good portion of the film. She plays Nobbs as a timid introvert, who has an underlying fear that plagues her every move. She does want her true identity to be revealed, and must constantly downplay everything. It may seem like an incredibly layered role, but outside of some atypical glances, there is really nothing special about Close. Her character wants to hide in plain sight, and not do anything to draw attention to herself. But this affects Close's performance immensely, because it never gives her the opportunity to make something of this character. Mere glances and passing references to something truly brilliant are apparent, but I found myself really struggling to care about the character. Much like the film, paying attention to Nobbs bordered on excruciatingly boring.

McTeer as Page however, the other woman playing a man in this grand play, is the exact opposite. I had heard very little about her before the film, but found myself unable to look away when she entered the frame. She has a sassy wit about her, and truly enlivens the characters and every second-rate line that comes out of her mouth. She is the catalyst for change in Nobb's life, but she too is doing her best not to draw attention to herself. Yet somehow, she does not slog through the performance like Close does. She truly makes something of the character, and carves out something interesting and fun to watch develop. It is not surprising at all surprising to find that she provides the most emotional scenes in the movie, b both downright hilarious and incredibly sad. I just wish there was more focus on her character, as she only appears in a handful of scenes. Fortunately they are the best scenes in the entire film, but they come way too far and few between.

Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson are the only other two actors who do not spend their screen time eliciting minor laughs from the crowd (although Pauline Collins is an underplayed delight as Mrs. Baker, the head of the hotel where most of the action takes place). While they have both given significantly better performances in other films, they both deliver some fairly solid work here. They have to chisel through some absolutely obnoxious and dull character motivations and actions, but they still shine through in most cases. I appreciated their work here more than I actually enjoyed it, but I think it could have been improved if they were not stuck working within the confines of the script.

Story and acting issues aside, the art direction is simply marvelous. The look of Dublin is so rich and vivid that you can practically smell the putrid stench coming off of these streets. A lot of care was put into making these sets and costumes look as detailed as physically possible, and it shows in how great they look. I sat in awe in more than one occasion, ignoring the inane dialogue and just taking in the scenery.

While I think the laughs that made The King's Speech such a crowd-pleasing delight last year may have had a bit of an influence on at least a portion of Albert Nobbs, I really wish they took more of a directional cue from the Best Picture winner. As it is, Nobbs is the kind of stuffy, pretentious period piece that most filmgoers love to hate. It is incredibly boring, with a lot of useless side performances and only a few good performances that still manage to be dull. The only real saving grace here is a wildly enjoyable supporting turn from McTeer, who will surely not see that enthusiasm go to waste when the awards time arrives. Maybe I should not have expected so much.

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interesting acting exercise
SnoopyStyle31 December 2014
In 19th century Dublin, Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) is a woman living as a man in order to work as a hotel waiter. She is a very particular man who has been saving to buy a tobacco shop. She gets found out when the owner Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins) hires painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) and puts him in her room. Then Hubert reveals that he is also a woman. Unemployed Joe Mackins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) lies his way into the hotel to get the job of repairing the boiler. Joe is soon sleeping with the maid Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska). Albert starts courting Helen but Joe convinces Helen to steal the money for passage to America.

It's somewhat fascinating to see the cross-dress acting but the story is really slow. The mannerisms are so odd that it is offputting. Also we know who Glenn Close is and some even Janet McTeer. There is something missing when we know that they are OBVIOUSLY women although nobody is suppose to know. There is a good sense of danger from discovery. However it needs to do much more. None of the characters are sympathetic. Nobbs is delusional. Joe is an obvious creep. Helen is just as much of a schemer or really dumb. I don't think I care for any of the characters.
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Should have stayed in Development Hell
thevagusgirl21 February 2012
This film perfectly exemplifies what happens to a script and to the creative instincts of the people behind a project when the journey to the screen takes almost thirty years.

The script that was filmed has lost its way.

The film is agnostic as to whether it is about gender politics, the impact of the class system or is simply a charming Oirish romp.

It's drowning in stereotypes, which is a travesty considering the quality of the cast. Only Janet McTeer put in an interesting performance and kept me from walking out. Close is unwatchable. The attention she has gotten for this role is baffling.

I can't even recommend it as a curiosity. It is simply dreadful.
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Overall Incredible
mbrittany2122 February 2012
I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about before I went to see it. All I knew was that it had Glenn Close and that it was one of the Oscar nominated movies. I came out grateful that I had decided to see it.

The acting in the movie is impeccable, writing is beautiful, and the story as a whole was intriguing. I won't make this a long review telling you everything that happens and how much I loved it all, I just want to give it the praise it deserves by saying that there wasn't a single thing I didn't love about Albert Nobbs. I felt for the characters, I cared about the characters, and deciding to watch the movie was a decision I will never regret. So all I really have to say now is if you are thinking about watching it, don't second guess yourself, just watch it. You'll be glad you did.
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A beautiful film about a sad and repressed life
Gordon-1125 December 2011
This film is about a woman who pretends to be a man to survive back in the 19th century Ireland.

"Albert Nobbs" is a well made film. It portrays Albert Nobbs down to the last detail. His personality, his hopes and dreams, his sad past are all told exquisitely and engagingly. The character is well portrayed and enacted. He is intensely private to guard his deepest secret, and yet he is also an emotional person that longs for love and companionship. His tormented soul creates much resonance and sympathy from the viewers. Albert's sad past and present is heartbreaking, and the film makes viewers yearn for a better future for Albert. "Albert Nobbs" is a beautiful film about a person's sad and repressed life.
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